Party leaders, donors and other supporters of Rubio portray a political operation that continues to come up short in its message, in its attention to the fundamentals of campaigning and in its use of a promising politician. The failures have all but doomed Rubio’s chances of securing the GOP nomination, leaving him far behind Trump and Cruz in both delegates and states won.
They have no infrastructure,” said Scott Reed, who is unaffiliated with any campaign but serves as the chief political strategist for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “His campaign hasn’t been able to keep up with his candidacy. . . . They don’t have the operation in the states to help him get over the top. He should be a finalist going all the way to California, and he’s not.”
There is disagreement among Rubio’s supporters over whether his decision to aggressively attack Trump — belittling his character, his appearance and even his manhood — has worked. Rubio’s advisers felt he had to mock Trump to gain national exposure amid the round-the-clock attention given to the front-runner. But others fret that the attacks have damaged Rubio’s image as a young, optimistic party leader.
As more than two dozen senior GOP Senate aides looked on Thursday afternoon at a private lunch presentation about the 2016 presidential race, conservative scholar Henry Olsen turned to Rubio’s chief of staff, Alberto Martinez, and offered a candid assessment of the senator’s campaign pitch.
Olsen said that while he appreciates Rubio’s sweeping call for building a “21st-century economy,” he worries that speaking in such broad terms in a year of populist unrest may be a political mistake.
Later, Olsen gently suggested that Rubio might be better served by fine-tuning his message with a more visceral appeal to working-class Americans who feel left behind and say he’s got their backs.
Martinez listened politely, and the conversation moved on.